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|SAN DIEGO PADRES
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From a distance, this trade makes no sense for the Padres. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sure that anyone believes the New, Improved Melvin Upton is a real, sustainable thing, and adding a platoon-y center fielder who’s cheap is never a bad idea. But if you ask three baseball analysts what the Padres’ biggest problem is, I’d bet all three of them might say that the team’s infield is horrible. And here we are, watching the Padres trade away their most productive infield asset.
(That’s me damning Jedd Gyorko with faint praise.)
The Friars get out from under the $25.5 million remaining on Gyorko’s long-but-not-especially-
However, the Founding Father had a dismal 2015 (.210/.306/.257) that was plagued with wrist issues after offseason surgery left him feeling the effects all season long. He was better early in the year, but after his mid-season DL stint, he was a complete cipher. He still didn’t have much of a platoon split, except this time instead of hitting about league average against both side, he was just awful against everyone. Your typical equal-opportunity offender.
The Padres received damaged goods in exchange for damaged goods, but there’s a chance this could be a big gain for the team. Gyorko was already damn near replacement-level, so finding a replacement should be easy, in theory. But if Jon Jay is something more like his 2014 self than his 2015 self, that’s a player you can’t just pluck from thin air and whose ceiling is a couple of wins.
Jay was a highly underrated asset prior to 2015, and there’s a small chance he can return to his quiet success in sunny San Diego. He could be a platoon partner for Upton, or a ready-and-raring backup in case Matt Kemp or Wil Myers default to their natural state (injured). Or maybe these days he’s just a fourth or fifth outfielder—it all depends on how he continues to respond from that injury.
It used to be that’s what people thought Jay was, though he was better than that. Today, injured and older and not quite as good, reality maybe has finally caught up to perception. —Bryan Grosnick
Jay leaves an organization flush with outfield depth—even if they don’t re-sign Jason Heyward—and joins one that should afford him the opportunity to play most days. Jay was dreadful at the plate in 2015 and will likely be a down-the-order hitter, so he is only viable in deep mixed and NL-only leagues. Despite the ugly .210/.306/.257 performance in 2015, Jay’s contact rate was the second highest of his career and his batted ball mix resembled the one he offered up in 2012, when he hit .305/.373/.400. That line was aided by a bunch of infield hits and Jay is slowing down, so I don’t expect him to return to that form. Nevertheless, a helpful batting average is a reasonable expectation and he could be a nice end-game target in appropriate formats. —Greg Wellemeyer
|ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
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Acquired IF-R Jedd Gyorko and cash considerations in exchange for OF-L Jon Jay
From a distance, this trade makes no sense for the Cardinals. Already stocked with an excellent third baseman in Matt Carpenter and a solid second baseman in Kolten Wong, adding Gyorko feels like a move to pick up a mildly expensive backup and right-handed power bat off the bench.
Once, I believed Jedd Gyorko could be Jason Kipnis: gap power, on-base percentage, and three or four wins a year. Today, it’s more likely that he could be Jayson Nix: nothing, more nothing, and I guess he can play a few positions. After a really, really great 2012 season in the minors where he hit for power (30 homers across two levels) and got on base (.373 OBP), Gyorko was the toast of the blogs.
Upon arriving in San Diego in 2013, however, it was obvious to see that his very good minor-league walk rate didn’t come with him. While he hit for enough power to make things interesting, he immediately became an OBP drain, and his .301 mark during that season would prove to be his highest in the majors. Since then, he’s posted a career TAv of .254 without any defensive value—he’s cost his teams about a win on defense—to speak of despite being “versatile” enough to play second and third.
The one saving grace for Gyorko is that he does hurt southpaws, with a career slugging percentage of .441 against them as well as a respectable .335 OBP. Does this mean that he could be a soft-side platoon partner for Wong? Maybe. The issue there is that Wong is pretty good at the little things like defense and baserunning and earning WARP. Those are things that you’d have to imagine the Cardinals value more than being able to beat up Jon Lester once in a while.
Then again, you don’t make a $25.5 million, four-year commitment to a guy who’s going to be a bench bat against lefties. So maybe he’s that platoon guy, or maybe the Cardinals think they can fix him the way they seemed to be able to fix pitchers for years, or maybe he’s a very expensive insurance policy against Wong's and Matt Adams’ health. The good news for the Cards is that they don’t need to rely on their new acquisition, they just need to find a place for him. After all, the Padres tried to rely on Gyorko, and look where that landed them. —Bryan Grosnick
Gyorko rebounded from a putrid April to finish with a .247/.297/.397 triple-slash that included 16 home runs, tied for 13th most among middle infielders. Even if you were bearish on the underlying skills, the likelihood of everyday at-bats in San Diego’s infield would have made Gyorko a nice speculative power play in 2016. That opportunity is now gone. Gyorko played the six occasionally in 2015 but Jhonny Peralta has been a top-two shortstop by WARP each of his two years in St. Louis and he’s played less than 146 games only once in the past decade. That leaves a short-side platoon with Kolten Wong at the keystone as Gyorko’s best case scenario. Gyorko registered a .300 TAv against southpaws in 2015, compared to a paltry .214 for Wong. The incumbent is the superior defender and just turned 25 years old, so they may not go with a strict platoon here, despite what the offensive numbers suggest. Joining the Cardinals is rarely a demerit for any player, but it’s difficult for the #devilmagic to show up without playing time.
A very good hitter against right-handed pitching last year (.276/.340/.432), Wong suffered an OPS more than 200 points below that against southpaws, and with this most recent trade (barring any further trades) stands to potentially push him into a platoon role. If that came to pass, it may help stabilize his batting average, his losses in counting stats should be just enough to cost him a dollar or two heading into 2016. —Greg Wellemeyer
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